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In 2015: MAYOR FIGHTS TO SECURE ‘PROJECT X’ FOR COUNTY

Perhaps it was the hint of cloak and dagger activity. Perhaps it was the name – Project X – that brought to mind late night Sci-Fi channel offerings.
Whatever the impetus, Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge’s hope of holding to a promise to increase economic health in the region for 2015 by giving a local company a helping hand hit a major snag early on – a snag that threatened to derail the project.
At that time, the county was in a head-to-head competition with another state for a project that Eldridge and many county officials saw as a way to retain current jobs and create new ones. But as part of a privacy agreement, the company could not be named, and was given the title “Project X.”
Commissioners were asked to approve an incentive package for “Project X” that would include funds for the Industrial Development Board to purchase the building occupied by the company, for about $1 million, as sum which supporters said would be covered by the rent.
Two scenarios were proposed. In the first, the company would commit to creating 25 new production jobs with an average annual salary of $34,000, and making a $16.6 million capital investment.
Under the terms of a 15-year lease agreement, the company would be responsible for building maintenance and insurance, but would pay no rent for the first three years. In addition, it would owe no property taxes throughout the lease because the IDB, a tax-exempt organization, would own the building.
If the company did not meet the minimum percentage of expected job numbers or investment by the end of year five, the lease would be adjusted to include an annual increase in rent and payments equivalent to the property taxes that would have been owed.
In the second scenario, the company would commit to creating 75 new production jobs with an average annual salary of $34,000, and making a $20 million capital investment.
Additional incentives in this scenario would allow the company to pay a lower amount of rent overall, with nothing due for the first six years, and receive a reduction in personal property tax over a five-year period by allowing the IDB to take the title to new machinery and equipment purchased during that time.
“We’ve been aware of the plan for two years, and the company is ready to make a decision,” said Mitch Miller, chief executive officer of the Washington County Economic Development Council.
Miller said the local company was planning an expansion that would bring in a new production line, but another state was offering a cash deal to relocate. If the current 150